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Genomics partnership probably won't escape budget cuts

ST. PAUL — On the heels of a nearly $1.2 million funding cut last year, the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic genomics partnership is being targeted again to help solve the state's budget deficit.

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton's budget calls for an $838,000 cut over two years for the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics. A Republican-backed first phase budget proposal vetoed by the governor would have continued the nearly $1.2 million reduction made last year.

Partnership supporters argue these cuts could seriously damage the state's efforts to remain competitive and grow jobs in the bioscience industry.

"We just think it is shortsighted to be continuing to make cuts to projects that need long-term investment," said Liz Rammer, chief operations officer for LifeScience Alley.

Established in 2003, the Minnesota Partnership brings together the research powers of the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic to make medical discoveries that will improve lives and lead to new businesses and jobs in the state. Research teams are currently investigating Alzheimer's disease, prostate cancer, heart disease and obesity. 


The partnership recently announced an ambitious goal to cure diabetes within 10 years. Called the "Decade of Discovery," the project would require an estimated $250 million to develop a cure and bring it to the market. The partnership seeks to raise those funds from a variety of sources but had hoped to get additional funding from the state.

Erin Sexton, director of government relations for Mayo Clinic, said the clinic is concerned about the proposed funding cuts.

"We know times are tight, but the state's investment in the partnership is helping fuel the basic research that is the engine that starts the road to licensing, commercialization and jobs. The partnership has already attracted significant outside funding and will ultimately attract the capital and jobs to apply the research and bring discoveries to commercialization," Sexton said.

Area lawmakers say they are troubled by the size of the proposed cuts. Rep. Mike Benson, R-Rochester, said it is unlikely the partnership will be spared completely, but he said he hopes the cuts will be smaller than those proposed.

"That partnership is important for the state and important for Rochester, and I don't see that as bringing pork back — this is real economic stimulus," he said.

Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester, said she will fight for the program but that the state's budget situation probably means some cuts.

She added, "I am sure it is very painful for them to watch the cuts to the program, but when times are tough like this, everybody is going to have to take a little hit."

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